Why you’re currently sleep deprived but shouldn’t be

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Jasmine Tatah/Staff

It’s now the middle of the semester. Classes and activities are in full swing, and your obligations are beginning to take precedence over your mental and physical health. On any given night, you might be studying for a midterm, preparing for a club meeting, finishing a lab report, baking a bundt cake for your roommate’s birthday, rearranging your furniture and simultaneously contemplating the purpose of your education here. You’re convinced that all of those things are worth compromising your sleep. We seem to have a paradoxical relationship with sleep — craving it almost all of the time yet starving ourselves of it when we need it the most and caving into it involuntarily at inappropriate times. It’s an ongoing cycle that’s really not healthy.

We’ve all been in a situation where neglecting sleep has come back to hurt us. We at the Clog stand in solidarity with all those who have shamefully fallen asleep in a 15-person discussion section, on AC Transit on the way to Safeway, on the laptop keyboard at the library, in line for food at Chipotle, on the floor of a lab partner’s apartment or on the toilet in the residence hall bathroom stall. We’ve all been there. We all know the struggle.

It’s fair to say that as Berkeley students, with all of the pressures from our academic, professional and social obligations, we are among the most prone to sleep deprivation. We all know and have probably experienced the negative impact on our health that lack of sleep can cause, including impaired memory and cognitive function, a weakened immune system, moodiness, irritability and weight gain. This may explain the cold that always seems to be going around your apartment, the 15 pounds from freshman year that you can’t get rid of, your occasional urges to burst into tears and your failure to remember material on exams after an all-nighter. There might also be long-term effects we may not think about, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Yet as the nerds that we are, we’re probably more fascinated by the neuropsychology behind the effects of sleep deprivation than concerned about its effect on our own wellbeing (how many of you have signed up for that Psychology of Sleep class that always seems to be full?). We’d all much rather get our five-or-less hours of sleep a night, fill up on coffee the next day and binge sleep to pay off our sleep debt on the weekends than change anything about our current sleeping habits.

Ironically, while most of us cut sleep out of our lives to increase productivity, it’s often the ones who sleep the most that are the most productive and stay sane in the process. Everyone who lacks sufficient sleep will say they want to sleep more, but none of them will likely make the changes necessary. There’s no quick fix to reviving your daily sleep schedule without rethinking your commitments, but there may be some small ways in which you can maximize the sleep you get in order to introduce restfulness back into your life.

For example, you can take naps during your gaps in between classes. Go to the library (some of our favorite nap-friendly libraries include Bancroft, Main Stacks and Morrison), the Student Union or Memorial Glade. Put on some soothing music and set an alarm for your next class. The great thing about sleeping on campus is that no one will judge you — if anything, they’ll probably be jealous. Don’t be afraid to skip lectures every once in a while, especially 8 a.m. ones. Watch webcasts if the lecture is webcasted, or get notes from a friend if it’s not. It’s not worth it to go to lecture and sleep through the whole thing anyway, so don’t feel guilty about skipping every once in a while. Go to bed 30 minutes to an hour earlier. A half-hour more of studying isn’t really going to get you very far, but the same amount of sleep can have a huge impact on your cognitive function in the morning.

These may not be long-term solutions, but they’ll keep you from drowning at the very least. And if you’re managing to stay afloat at an institution such as UC Berkeley, we’d say you’re doing pretty well.

Contact Jasmine Tatah at [email protected].